The idea of placing a very small controllable object into the human body in order to accomplish a medical feat, believe it or not, came from a science fiction film! In 1966, a movie by the name of Fantastic Voyage was produced and explored the subject. In this movie, a spy with critical information was nearly assassinated and left comatose with a potentially fatal clot in his brain. To save his life and to retrieve the top secret information, a submarine was shrunk to microbe size and injected into his body with a team of surgeons onboard. The team navigated to his brain to mechanically destroy the clot and save the spy along with his secret information.
This idea has evolved from science fiction into what is today the branch of science and technology that is known as Nanomedicine. The potential benefits of Nanomedicine are to possibly develop a cure for cancer, cure diabetes, suppress genetic defects, and even cure mental illness. Nanorobots could be injected into the blood stream where they could wipe out viruses, bacteria, and other harmful organisms before they could lead to disease. Nanorobots could also detect clots in the brain or coronary arteries and break them apart before a stroke or a heart attack could occur. However, any medical advances bring with them concerns for safety and potential ethical problems. Nanomedicine must provide more benefit than harm to the patient in order to cure disease and cure health. Ethical concerns could include the tremendous cost of developing this technology and if it would be available to everyone or only to the very rich? The promise of future benefits from Nanomedicine technology greatly outweighs its risks and ethical considerations.
What exactly is Nanomedicine? Nanomedicine combines the fields of clinical medicine, nanotechnology, microrobotics, and computer engineering in an effort to prevent or cure disease at the molecular level. “The prefix ‘nano’ stems from the ancient Greek word for ‘dwarf’. In science, it means one billionth (10 to the minus 9) of something, thus a nanometer (nm) is one billionth of a meter, or 0.000000001 meters. A nanometer is about three to five atoms wide, or some 40,000 times smaller than the thickness of human hair. A virus is typically 100 nm in size.” (Paddock) “The ability to manipulate structures and properties at the nanoscale in medicine is like having a sub-microscopic lab bench on which you can handle cell components, viruses or pieces of DNA, using a range of tiny tools, robots and tubes.” (Paddock) There is one type of microscope in the world that has the ability to see things at the nano scale. That microscope is a scanning tunneling microscope. It has the ability to zoom in on an object by 1,000,000 times as the average high school and college microscope only reaches 100(Nano.gov).
The National Institutes of Health began the U.S. National Nanomedicine Initiative program in 2005 by developing a national network of Nanomedicine...